September 13, 2002

Guatemalan adventure fills archdiocesan seminarian with faith and hope

By Scott Nobbe

ANTIGUA, GUATEMALA—My summer played itself out in the midst of the preparations, festivals and liturgical celebrations for recently canonized St. Hermano Pedro of Betancourt in Guatemala.

Any anxieties that I may have had about spending my entire summer as a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in Antigua, Guatemala, learning Spanish were vanquished before my Boeing 747 flight left the Atlanta International Airport tarmac on May 23.

It was obvious that God sent his angels to watch over me because I met not one, but two Guatemalan priests who were to be my fellow passengers for the three-hour flight south.

For 11 weeks, I studied the language, lived among the people, learned various aspects of the local culture and customs, and worshipped inside some of the oldest and most beautiful churches in Central America.

During those weeks, I felt blessed to be in Guatemala even though 60 percent of the children have not received more than a sixth-grade education and much suffering still exists as a result of a civil war that ended just four years ago.

From start to finish, God saw to it that I constantly encountered people who would help me grow as a person and a future minister, along with circumstances that challenged my faith.

Many of these people were the teachers and other foreign students that I interacted with during my four hours of daily, individualized instruction at Probigua, our school.

Other people captured my interest in Antigua’s picturesque Central Park, where seven other seminarians from Saint Meinrad and I engaged in Spanish conversation with the local vendors and street folk from time to time.

The frequent weekend excursions to various parts of the country, whether it was to the top of an active volcano or to the edge of the coastal waters of the Caribbean, gave me ample opportunity to savor the various landscapes divinely created and cross paths with the generous but simple people bound to its care.

Each day spent strolling on the cobble-stoned streets of Antigua gave me the feeling I was a contestant on the old TV game show “Let’s Make a Deal.” Literally anything may lie behind the multicolored, castle-like wooden doors that line each corner.

It was quite easy to get caught up in the tourist action of dining and haggling for merchandise, but difficult to pretend that the beggars and crippled people scattered throughout small towns did not exist as well.

Guatemalans are very proud people and, as I discovered, they would rather give you incorrect directions than admit they had no directions to give at all.

Antigua possesses such a vast international flavor that if I was not careful I could have missed the Guatemalan authenticity all together—the colorfully painted, imported school buses from North America, the intricately crafted arts, and the delicious taste and intoxicating smell of the traditional foods, to name a few memories.

Truly, my seminarian brothers and I were blessed to be in such a special country with special people, but also to be there during a very special time in their history.

Never before have I witnessed such spiritual fervor than when Pope John Paul II presided at the canonization Mass of Hermano Pedro on July 29 in Guatemala City.

I have retold my story of this event several times and goosebumps still run the length of my arm and neck with each recitation. I was very humbled and honored to participate in such a momentous occasion in the life of the Church and her people.

I have to admit that the Holy Father’s appearance was a truly wonderful ending to my summer. However, it would be a disservice to everyone I had the pleasure of meeting, the special moments I shared with my seminarian brothers, and my new Guatemalan friends to say it was my most cherished memory.

My return to Indianapolis in early August left me with mixed emotions.

There was the sadness of leaving behind Irma, my teacher, confidante and new friend. It took hardly any time at all to become close in our mutual faith and develop a trust level that would rival that of some spiritual directors.

But I was also filled with hope as my thoughts turned to my upcoming third year at Saint Meinrad School of Theology and about accomplishing my ministry with the local Hispanic communities of southern Indiana.

Very shortly, I will know if Irma was right when she told me I was ready. Please God, let it be so!

(Scott Nobbe is a seminarian at Saint Meinrad School of Theology and a member of St. Thomas Parish in Fortville. His studies in Central America were funded by donations to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis from parish collections taken up on ordination weekend. This fund provides for the education and formation of men for the priesthood.) †


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